Joe and Luke aka “Barats and Bereta” are a comedy duo who adopted YouTube early on as an online channel for their comedy. The camaraderie between the two is so in sync, it’s scary. During our conversation and photo session Joe and Luke were bouncing jokes, insults and ideas back and forth as if they had been doing this for decades. Over the course of the interview we spoke with the team about their comedy, the future of YouTube and Duck Hunt.
- What takes up most of your time right now?
- Joe: My family takes up my time and my other 9-5 job.
- Luke: For me, it’s Starbucks. I’m one of those guys on the laptop at Starbucks just writing and writing.
- Guilty pleasures?
- Luke: I had gelato for the first time today and I think that’s going to be mine. As of 2:00pm today, it’s gelato.
- Joe: I’m going to go with old school 8-bit and 16-bit Nintendo games and steak.
- Luke: (answering a text): My guilty pleasure is taking text messages during interviews. Sorry.
- Joe: Oh! He’s indulging right now!
- Luke: Sorry! OK, my phone is on silent.
- Was the dog in duck hunt laughing at you or crying at you?
- Joe: I think the dog in Duck Hunt laughs at everybody. He always wins.
- Luke: Not me. I’ve never missed a duck.
- Joe: That’s a dirty, dirty lie.
- Pet peeves:
- Joe: I can’t stand people that do not acknowledge when you open a door for them. Not just the fact that they don’t say thank you, but they don’t even look at you. Like, you were put on this Earth to open the door for them and fate brought you together and they’re okay with it. That pisses me off.
- Luke: It pisses me off when people do nice things and expect recognition every time. My pet peeve is Joe Bereta.
- Oh yeah! Someone tweeted us a question, “Why is Luke so awesome?”
- Luke: Do we have time for this?
- Off course! Lets do you both! Luke, why is Joe so awesome, and Joe, why is Luke so awesome?
- Luke: Joe can do a backflip and I think that alone, any human being who can do a backflip, how are they not awesome?
- Joe: On a scale from 1 to 10 I tend to hover around about a 5 in reality but if I bust out a backflip it bumps me up a point or two. That’s on the scale of awesomeness. I can’t think of anything witty for Luke.
- Luke: Luke is awesome because he defies description. Luke is awesome because he speaks in third person.
- Joe: He picks up the ball when I tend to drop it in situations where I’m supposed to be witty and drop knowledge. I can’t tend to do that apparently. The shirt that he’s currently wearing is incredibly awesome and I was commenting on that early. It’s a Yellowstone shirt and it has a freakin’ moose on it.
- Luke: Joe’s awesome because of backflips. Luke’s awesome because of t-shirts.
- What’s the most humiliating public stunt you guys had to do for a video?
- Luke: There have been a couple. One time, I don’t know if it was humiliating, but we had to interview the cast of “In Bruges,” which is a movie staring Collin Farrell, at Sundance.
- Joe: We’ve never done anything like that before.
- Luke: We had to elbow our way up through these really aggressive paparazzi to get our questions asked. Then our questions were funny questions. This is a horrible answer.
- Joe: It was hard. Well, I busted into a room with a Speedo once in a video.
- Luke: Not really humiliating but highly illegal, we threw a body dummy off a really tall bridge for a shot but the shot worked out great.
- Joe: I can’t gauge height by just looking at something but 500? 6,000 billion feet? Yeah? That was one of those things where we did, retrieved the body, and got out of there really fast.
- What’s the longest you guys have gone without sleep?
- Joe: That was when we were editing the pilot, for the most part.
- Luke: I’ve probably gone 48 hours before.
- Joe: There’s like goals in college. I’ve done it for a day. Nobody in their right mind makes it past 48 unless they are insane. When we were editing our pilot for NBC, we probably went a week with very little sleep. Probably an hour or two a night because we had to bust it out.
- Luke: There were a couple days when we were sleeping in the edit bay.
- Give me a fun fact about yourselves.
- Joe: I took three years of ballet growing up.
- Luke: My car was stolen by a little person. They had him on tape in the grocery store where he parked my stolen vehicle. So, my car got stolen, I go to pick it up and my seat was pushed all the way forward. I was like, oh it must be a really short person stealing my car or they’re trying to get something behind my seat. Then I look at my rear-view mirror and it was so severely down that when I look at it I’m looking at my own crotch. This guy was pretty short. Then I turn on the car and the stereo was blaring a Deftones CD and I don’t own Deftones CD. So whoever stole my car brought a Deftones CD to steal my car to and as we all know little people love the Deftones.
- Joe: That’s a fact!
- Luke: So, using my powers of deduction I’ve deduced as much.
- Give me a funner fact.
- Joe: As a freshman, I did a year of male cheer leading at Gonzanga University.
- Luke: My kid brother just got accepted into Blue Man Group, so he’s going to be one of those guys.
Give us a quick background on how you guys met at Gonzaga University.
Joe: So we went to Gonzaga Unversity in Washington state. I’m from Montana and Luke’s from Idaho. We met in the most northwestern state minus Alaska and Hawaii. We started to do improv and we met each other at the improv troupe. I was doing videos for my broadcasting class and I needed to make some for a comedy show that I was putting on and Luke and I started making funny videos for grades.
Luke: This was in 2002. YouTube did not exist at this point and time and it wouldn’t for about three years. We were making all these videos for the campus TV station, little sketches and stuff. We were tossing them up on a little website that we had so our folks could see it back home. They had to download it and inevitably they wouldn’t be able to watch the Quicktime file on their PC and it was a big hassle. Then YouTube came along and flash player worked for everybody and it just solved all of our problems and then we tossed our videos up on that, not thinking much of it. Mother’s Day of 2006 rolls around and we have a new video out called, “Mother’s Day” and they put us on the front page.
Joe: This was back when the front page was not just a bunch of crazy videos. It was literally one video.
Luke: They picked one video and they had it there for 24 hours. Of all the videos on YouTube our video was selected as the one for the day. Traffic on our site went from 200 hits to about 40,000 hits in a day. We were given no warning and it just kind of happened so suddenly. Boom, 2006 I was freshly out of college, we were both out of college at that point. Suddenly, a lot of people wanted to watch our videos so we started getting pretty regular about making them. The goal initially was that it was so difficult to share the videos. You could e-mail them but it had to be such a small size.
Joe: It got a lot easier when you can send a link.
Luke: It was godsend.
Joe: Up until that point, I was working at a commercial production company. Luke was thinking about it and just about to join up and work with us there. The Internet videos, making funny videos, we just decided to make one whenever it struck our fancy. Otherwise, we were working normal 9 to 5’s and then Mother’s Day hit and we started focusing on that more.
Luke: To be fair, back in 2006, nobody was making money on YouTube. Videos were not monetized for another three years. It did stay as our hobby for quite some time afterward because there was no money in it. We were getting other work in old media based on our YouTube videos. NBC let us do a pilot for them. We wrote another script for NBC. We wrote one for “Relativity”, a future script. We just got a lot of work out of the sketches that we were putting up for free on YouTube.
Joe: We got a lot of new media offers too. Our Windward Reports videos. Our Cubicle Wars videos was a commissioned video. A couple of other side projects that we did was the start of making money off of the YouTube before actually making money off of YouTube itself.
Luke: I remember back in high school the counselor was like, “You know, 70 percent of you are going to have jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.” At the time, I was like “Yeah right!”
Joe: “Shut up, counselor!”
Luke: Let’s call her “Counselor Davis.” I don’t remember her name but I was like, “Shut up, Counselor Davis!” That whole sentence was fictitious but I thought it in my mind. It turned out to be ultra true for me. I guess I should have listened more in high school.
Joe: Obviously it didn’t matter.
So your sketches range from parodies to commentary to random songs to theme songs then to giant tarantulas. In a nutshell, what are your videos?
Luke: If our videos were a scatter plot, at the center it would be sketch. We try to stay pretty close to traditional sketch which is what you see on Saturday Night Live and live theater. Getting into film stuff, filming on digital cameras is so easy and it opens you up to other comedy too. We’ll do a song, we’ll do an animation, we’ll do a nonsense video with no dialogue. We just do whatever we think is funny and often times it’s about 2 minutes long.
In school, Luke majored in theater and history and Joe did broadcast studies. Were either of you expecting to pursue entertainment as a full time venture after college? Did formal education get you to where you are at?
Luke: I would say that I always hoped that it would but if I was a betting man I would have never said that entertainment would have been a career of mine. When you’re up in Idaho and up in Montana the entertainment industry is not part of the culture up there. It’s nonexistent. I figured the closest I would get was making TV commercials. Those exist in Idaho. Things started opening up right after college and it started to seem like a reality. I would say that higher education has definitely helped the writing aspect. That was very helpful. Also, college in general opens you up to new ideas, and ideas are what you need to have for writing in general.
Joe: We were both doing improv on the side and making these videos. When you’re up there, unless you’re incredibly ready to make that plunge and just say, “I’m going to LA” I think it’s hard to stay up there. I think a lot less people make that jump. I don’t think it’s not part of the social conversation. When you go to school, you keep those things on the fringe side of your life. You’re building to whatever your next step in your career is going to be. I was doing commercial production. Like Luke was saying, commercial production was about as close are you’re going to get to the entertainment industry, but you keep your hands in community theater and the local improv houses. You do those things with the hope that you’re holding on to that dream and something would happen. For us, we were really lucky. If you’re doing that work, the opportunities will hopefully come to you. The point is we were building towards not having entertainment careers, but we weren’t taking the bold steps towards them because we were doing it as a hobby and something that we love. We ended up taking the plunge later as opposed to sooner.
Luke: In any other decade, we would have had to move to Los Angeles and take those steps ourselves. Thanks to the Internet, essentially working as our calling card, we were found and started to get work while we were essentially in our hometown. We sort of got invited down which is what we needed.
Joe: YouTube opened up the Hollywood doors to those more passive.
Luke: We write everything out fully before we do it. Improv helps with writing because you follow the same rules but we definitely like to prepare stuff well in advance. People will laugh at very different things if they know you’ve had infinite time to prepare it as opposed to coming with it at the spot. The types of jokes that work on a improv show aren’t going to kill on YouTube necessarily. The bar gets raised when you have time to prepare and the audience knows that. We’ve definitely put a lot of effort into the writing. We tend to try to set the videos in very easy locations to shoot – an apartment, a park. Our buddy Andy has solved that problem. All he does is film everything on a green screen. We are only friends with Andy because he has a green screen. His name is Andy Mogran. We’d appreciate it if you put it in the article that we’re friends with him because he has a green screen. We hate Andy. Well, if you want to know, Andy Mogran does little videos and enters short films and stuff. He’s very funny.
Joe: He’s very good at what he does. He won the LA comedy shorts film festival last year.
Luke: Bringing it back to us now. Forget Andy. Us, our shoots couldn’t be smaller. If one of us is on camera in a video, chances are the other one is holding the camera and shooting.
Joe: They’re probably holding the boom mic and probably doing craft services unless we have a third part in the video like if we need a friend to play guy #3. Then, guy #3 is also holding boom when he’s not acting.
Luke: It’s safe to say that everyone who appears on screen in one of our videos also has a production role that they’re doing.
Joe: We’re changing lives. We’re providing valuable skill training. Life lesson number one: don’t agree to do a Barats and Bereta shoot. You can bet you will not be fully compensated.
Given the constantly changing taste of the audience, how do you draw inspiration in creating new sketches?
Luke: We definitely stay away from the fads and memes and stuff. You’re never going to be able to make something on purpose that is accidentally funny. That’s what really gets a viral video. It’s the Numa Numa kid sitting down at his computer and accidentally shaking the video while he’s dancing. It’s Rebecca Black making a video that she’s been told was going to be great and it accidentally turns out horrible. We pull from our lives.
Joe: We’ve touched on parody maybe a little. We don’t latch on to cultural events or the “Sh*t People Say” videos. It’s easier to pick up on one of our videos because they are not dated by things that are happening in pop culture.
Luke: It’s not that we don’t want to. It’s just that our process from inception to upload probably takes about a month. If we try to do a video about a meme, that thing is going to be a dead horse by the time we actually upload it to YouTube. We’ve found that it’s best, for us, to do material that is more generic and that is going to make sense to an audience a year from now, five years from now, hopefully a hundred years from now. Hopefully, we’re timeless. You just know we’re doing a bunch of stuff in our videos right now that we don’t think is racist but 80 years from now everything is going to be racist. Just like Looney Tunes or something.
When you do offend someone, how do guys respond to negative comments on your videos?
Luke: We just don’t respond. It’s just a lose-lose. You get an angry comment or an angry e-mail and it’s a coin flip as to whether it’s a rational, lucid person on the other end of that e-mail. I’m sure we’ve ignored some angry people with very valid concerns.
How do you guys see YouTube evolving in the future?
Luke: As a website grows the way YouTube has grown and becomes as wealthy as YouTube has, it’s going to attract money and people who expect to make money off of it. I think YouTube is far more mainstream and legitimate as far as entertainment is concerned than it was even 2 or 3 years ago. That’s why you get all these celebrities appearing in these videos. There are YouTube channels that have bigger audiences than cable shows – twice as big as cable shows.
Joe: A lot of people are saying that old media is going to be dead and everything is going to new media. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true but they’re starting to utilize one another more. It’s not just YouTube, it’s streaming sites in general. Yes, TV is infiltrating it all and yes, TV is going to use it. You can’t blame them because it’s another outlet to get money, get their shows out there and get people engaged. It seemed like 5 years ago they were kind of afraid of new media and they were not working with it. Now, old media, money, movies, television, the entertainment industry, is utilizing new media and it may all go that route – all television shows will be on new media – but I don’t think that’s going to appeal to television and cable.
Luke: I’ll go out on a limb and make a bold prediction about that. I think Internet is going to kill television as we know it within a decade. BOOM! Write that I was holding a microphone and then dropped it in this one (laughs.) I see the resistance to put television shows on the Internet dissipating entirely. I just caught up on all of “30 Rock” in a few weeks. I’ve never seen it on TV and I don’t own a TV and I caught up with “30 Rock” all on Netflix. It’s super easy, I could watch it whenever I want, I don’t TiVo anything, it’s there whenever I want it. It’s just easier. As higher quality videos become easier and easier to present on the Internet, Internet will become only more preferable for everyone involved.
Joe: It’s probably going to become the same thing. You will just watch Internet on your TV.
Luke: Also, I’m going to make another bold claim here, I believe that humans will grow a third arm as a species in 30 years so they could hold their own boom mics. Our generation, which all needed a third arm to hold boom mics, will slowly evolve as YouTubers and mate with other YouTubers.
You guys have been reached out to by NBC, HBO and MTV. What’s in store for you guys? Are you guys going to continue with online videos? Are you going to steer towards traditional media?
Luke: I feel like it’s tough to speculate on those sort of things because I feel like it’s not going to go that way. The future of YouTube and television is going to go some weird path that no one correctly predicted and we’re just going to have to react to it. I think, ideally, we’d love to produce our own content no matter what YouTube looks like. If someone was like, “Hey, Barats and Bereta, could you make a ‘weblivision’ episode?” We’d be like, “yes.” Or as we’ll be saying in 10 years, “schnerk.” What’s ‘yes’ in Chinese? We’ll be all saying that in 10 years. Here we go… I’m just going to go on a rant now.
Joe: He always does this. He’s always ranting. I’m like, Luke, you should vlog. You should do it because you have such good rants.
Luke: I make for the best written interviews, don’t I? None of this is going to play on the page.
Joe: We’ve just always bounced on the outside of every little bit of media. We’re doing the YouTube thing because we enjoy that. We’re doing live shows and we enjoy that. We’re going to try touring. We’re always trying to write for television and write for movies. We do auditions and stuff like that. So to say what’s going to happen for us in the next five years, I would say that our five year plan is that we’re going to keep knocking on doors until we break one down with luck, like it all started.
Joe: That’s a different type of instant gratification. It’s nice to get very pleasant comments from people looking at our videos but the laughter of an audience, I don’t think there’s a better rush, and that’s why we do it.
Luke: There is one better rush and that’s the laughter of a child.
Joe: That’s not true. I have one. It’s okay.
Luke: Performance-wise, live is a different beast. We tend to be bigger, we act bigger, we act louder and we end up sweaty after it. Acting for the cameras is much smaller and you get to tell people where to look. With the camera angles you get to choose, you can be much smaller and much more specific and nuanced.
Joe: For something to be said for, have we ever been paid to do anything live? I don’t think so. Obviously we like doing it because we both do improv and we’re constantly putting a Barats and Bereta show in some theater. It’s just a different type of gratification. I don’t think there’s a feeling that is comparable to performing live. It’s just fun.
Does one supplement the other?
Joe: The live stuff tends to be more crass because that’s not on the Internet forever. It allows us to be a little more blue.
Luke: You do have to be a little careful, though. There are no video of my grandparents who are 90. If I’ am lucky enough to turn 90 there are going to be a lot of videos of me being a douchebag when I was 20 and hopefully they aren’t too embarrassing 70 years from now. I have no choice but to believe what my parents tell me about their childhood. Joe and I aren’t going to have that luxury with our kids.
Joe: There’s a lot worse things that we could be doing on the Internet that could be on the Internet forever. We’re just making comedy videos.
Luke: Oh you’re not doing porn?
Joe: Well, not anymore.
Luke: Oh I am. I’m doing all sorts of porn (laughs.)
What else can we expect from Barats and Bereta?
Luke: We’re going to be pumping out a lot of hilarious vids. We are going to be starting a college tour next month. The tour itself is open ended but we can add some dates to that, for sure. It’s a little of what you’ve seen on the Internet, a lot of what you haven’t. Live stuff, we both do improv here in town. You should come out.
Joe: Check us out. Luke’s at Upright Citizens Brigade. I’m at Comedy Sports LA. You’re at another place.
Luke: Improv Space.
Joe: And the porn. A lot of porn.
How is your relationship with each other? How does the collaboration work? Obviously from the interview you guys feed off of each other.
Joe: We’ve got a handful of vids which have come from us sitting in an airport saying, “Oh, this would be funny.” An example of that would be Mantage and the other one would be our fast food video. Then there’s a lot of times where Luke writes me an e-mail with a full script and say, “This is funny. Want to do it?” Then I’ll say yes and maybe I’ll send him some notes and maybe not.
Luke: I think where our experiences with each other really comes into play is on the day when we’re shooting and we’re on set. We co-direct our videos like we said, one’s holding the camera while the other is on camera. We don’t’ really need to discuss angles anymore. We jointly developed a shooting style, a timing style, that we both understand without speaking. Our shoots are pretty darn efficient these days. Don’t mean to brag, though.
Do you have any words of wisdom for content creators?
Luke: If a comedian wants to get big on YouTube specifically, I think the demographics of who’s watching YouTube is still very much skewed to a teenage/preteen audience. I don’t think you necessarily have to pander to that audience but that’s who’s watching the stuff on YouTube. It just goes to say that YouTube is not just the only option nor has it ever been. It just happened to be the option worked out for us because our comedy naturally appeals to that demographic.
Joe: As far as wisdom goes, you just need to start trying stuff. Keep creating until you find whatever your specific voice is. Once you find something that you enjoy doing and you are creating something that you’re proud of, put it out there. It’s going to be slow going at first but your voice is going to find an audience. No matter what you do people, you will find an audience. Whether it starts small or it starts big that audience will be dedicated as long as you’re finding happiness in what you’re doing.
How do we stalk you guys?
- Facebook search Barats and Bereta
Joe: Come to our Facebook page! We’d like to build that.